Cho, Michael. Shoplifter.

NY: Pantheon, 2014.

This not-long graphic novel isn’t even close to an epic. No superheroes, not even especially unusual characters. A “quiet” story, as they say, but it’s quite well done. Corinna Park is a Korean-Canadian in her mid-20s who is burning out in her job with an ad agency. Does she really want to keep pitching perfume to nine-year-old girls? But what else can you do to pay the bills in the big city with a degree in English Lit? (She’d rather be a novelist, but. . . .)

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Published in: on 26 April 2018 at 4:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Moebius. The World of Edena.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2016.

Like most Americans of my generation, I first discovered French graphic novelist Moebius (whose real name was Jean Giraud, and who died in 2012) in the highly innovative and much-mourned Heavy Metal Magazine. His work, like that of his European peers, was a far cry from the DC approach to comics. This epic (it runs to 360 pages) started out in 1983 as a contracted series for the Citroen car company, whose vehicles were always very “French” in design. But then it took off on its own and the resultant volume became an overnight collector’s item.

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Published in: on 10 April 2018 at 7:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Belle, Kimberly. The Marriage Lie.

NY: MIRA, 2016.

This appears to be the author’s third novel, though it’s the first I’ve of her, and she certainly knows how to write an exciting and occasionally emotionally wrenching story. Iris and Will have been very happily married and living in Atlanta for the past seven years and they’ve finally decided to start trying for a family. Will is a software designer of considerable skill and he’s flying off to be keynote speaker at a professional conference in Orlando — but then a plane from the same airline bound for Seattle goes down and Will’s name is on the manifest. Iris is devastated. It can’t be him, right? Why would he have been going to Seattle?

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Published in: on 27 March 2018 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Silverberg, Robert. Dying Inside.

NY: Ballantine, 1972.

Robert Silverberg has been one of science fiction’s most active authors and editors for most of the past fifty-odd years and his work falls largely on the “intellectual” end of the SF spectrum. He’s done fantasy and space opera, but his most important books are those that investigate the human mind and condition, and often with only a relatively thin science-fictional skin. This one began with the title, originally a New York-Jewish idiom, and the author decided it referred in his case to a character with something literally dying inside him. Not an organ but an unusual mental ability, like telepathy.

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Published in: on 6 March 2018 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wolitzer, Meg. The Interestings.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Wolitzer has published close to a dozen novels but her record has been somewhat uneven. This may be one of her best, though, especially to those of us born before 1960. It’s the story of six kids who first come together one evening, aged fifteen and sixteen, in the summer of 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a determinedly artsy summer camp in the Adirondacks run by a couple of aging Greenwich Villagers.

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Published in: on 16 December 2017 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Blish, James. A Case of Conscience.

NY: Walker, 1958.

James Blish was one of the more intellectual science fiction authors of the mid-20th century and this is probably his most important work, for which he won a Hugo in 1959. “Religion in science fiction” leads most fans to think of A Canticle for Leibowitz, published at about the same time, but there the Catholic Church was simply the background for a post-holocaust plot line. Blish — who was a thoroughgoing agnostic at the least — is more interested in actual questions of theology. And that makes for a fascinating and involving story. Moreover, it’s only the first of his four books on similar themes.

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Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland.

NY: Penguin, 2000.

I’ve been working my way slowly and sort of randomly through Dessen’s Young Adult novels, all of which have been well above average in many ways. This is one of her earlier ones (she’s published thirteen books now) and it’s much darker than any of the others I’ve read. I can’t even say I enjoyed it, exactly, though it certainly has a powerful impact.

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Published in: on 7 November 2017 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Backderf, John. My Friend Dahmer.

NY: Abrams, 2012.

Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t the only serial killer America produced in the late 20th century but he was one of the most disturbing ones, if only because, after he was caught in 1991, he was candid and forthright about what he had done. Unlike Gacy and others who come to mind, he didn’t make excuses or try to shift the blame. But he really didn’t know why he had killed sixteen men, either.

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Harris, Robert. Conclave.

NY: Knopf, 2016.

I’m not Catholic — I’m not really a believer of any kind, in fact — but I am interested in the anthropology of power, and I know from experience that Harris always tells a good story, so I was willing to give this one a try and I’m glad I did. Set just a couple of years from now, it’s about the struggle for succession following the death of a pope who is obviously meant to be Francis.

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Published in: on 11 September 2017 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen.

NY: Viking, 2006.

I’ve become hooked recently on Dessen’s highly literate YA novels, and this one is one of her best so far. Even though I’m a grandparent, I’m also a lifelong librarian and recommender of books to all sorts of readers, and that includes teenagers, so the purported target readership doesn’t faze me. A book is either well-written or not.

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Published in: on 22 June 2017 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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